Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 4

For the series outline, click here.

The next section examines Jesus as the kurios of Septuagint passages cited or alluded to in 1 Cor. This involves analysis of 1:2, 31; 2:16; 10:19-22 and 26. While the exegesis varies in persuasiveness, particularly powerful is the association of 1:2 with Gen 12:8, Joel 2:32 (LXX 3.5) plus verses in Deuteronomy, the Psalms and the Prophetic writings. He concludes: 'God's people are still distinguished as those who "call on the name of the Lord"; but the Lord on whom they call is Christ himself' (129). 1:31 is fruitfully read in light of Jer 9:23 LXX:

'The christological implication of such a claim is striking indeed, since the context in Jeremiah has to do with Yahweh's absolute claim to loyalty over all other gods. That Lord, now Jesus Christ, is the one in whom the Corinthians are to boast' (130)

10:20 is then read with Deut 32:17 and 10:22 with Deut 32:21. He concludes:

'Just as Israel made the Lord = Yahweh jealous by sacrificing to "no god" demons, so the Corinthians, by attendance at pagan feasts, are sharing in what is demonic and thus making jealous their Lord = Christ, in whose death and resurrection they participate when they eat and drink at his table' (133).

The next section attends to Kurios Jesus in terms of divine prerogatives. This involves analysis of 'grace' language in 1:3 and 16:23, noting the interchange between God and Lord on this issue (134-35). He also notes the adoption of a Yahweh phrase from the OT, namely 'the day of the Lord' in 1:8, language which Paul now attributes to Christ. 1:10 and 5:3-4 uses the 'In the name of the Lord' formula.

'The point, of course, is that he uses "the name of o kurios", which in the Septuagint is the Divine Name for Yahweh. Here "the name of the Lord" has been transferred altogether to Christ' (135).

In relation to 5:4: 'What is significant christologically is that a judgment pronounced in the Lord's name belongs uniquely to Yahweh, the God of Israel; for Paul, it belongs equally to Christ Jesus' (135). 1:1, 17 and the sent/commissioned by Christ language is fruitfully read in terms of Isa 6:8, and 'the Lord of glory' in 2:8 reflects, Fee maintains, OT themes, such as the king of Glory in Ps 24. Included in this section is analysis of such language in 1 Cor as 'the Lord has Given/Assigned (3:5; 7:17; 12:4), the Lord judges (4:4-5; 11:32), 'if the Lord wills/permits' (4:19; 16:7), 'the power of the Lord Jesus' in 5:4, striving to please the Lord in 7:32, the 'command of the Lord' in 7:10, 12, 25; 9:14 and14:36-37 and the being under Christ's law in 9:21. With Fee's examination of this passage:

'[W]e come to the end of Paul's attribution to Christ as kurios a large number of exact phrases or otherwise divine prerogatives that in the OT belong to God alone, not to angles or to human beings. Although several, or any one, of them might seem incidental and relatively unimportant, their cumulative affect is considerable'. (142, my italics).

Before finishing this extensive chapter, Fee addresses certain texts in 1 Cor that imply subordination. He asserts:

'Finally, we need to examine carefully the two other texts in this letter [besides 15:28 examine elsewhere] that specifically suggest the Son to be in a subordinate relationship to the Father: 1 Cor 3:23; 11:3. And one must be especially careful here because the issue of "being" is simply not part of Paul's epistolary discourse; his concern is always with the role or function of the Son in the divine plan of redemption' (142 italics mine).

In relation to 3:23 ('Christ is of God') he argues that 'such statements as these reflect functional subordination and have to do with Christ's function as Savior, not with his being as such' (142). Further: 'God is the source and goal of everything, both creation and redemption, while Christ is the divine agent of creation and redemption. In this sense, "Christ is of God"' (143). In relation to 11:3 and God as the 'head' of Christ, he denies a subordination/submission relationship between husband and wife in this context, and argues that '[a]lthough one cannot be certain here, most likely it was a useful metaphor to express something of a chronology of "salvation history" (147).

In conclusion to this important chapter, Fee makes five points that he believes his exegesis has demonstrated: 1) The important christological themes found in this letter are as follows: 'the exalted Christ as messianic King and Son; Christ as "the Lord" of ever so many Septuagint texts where "the Lord" is Yahweh; Christ's sharing with the Father a great many divine prerogatives' (147). 2) He has found clear christological pre-existence statements. 3) 1 Cor affirms a divine economy, not ontological, subordination of the Son to the Father. 4) Christ's humanity is clearly affirmed. 5) These points are never a point of argumentation in Paul, as such, but assumed. Finally, and 6):

'the most challenging matter of all remains: the danger of analysis without adequate appreciation for the absolute centrality of Christ for Paul, an analysis of what Paul believed about Christ by way of what he says about his Lord that fails to comprehend and communicate his utter and total devotion to Christ—a devotion that a good Jew could give only to his God ... And at the end of the day, however one handles the language of Paul's express statements about Christ, there is no genuine Christology that does not account for Paul's utter devotion to and longing for Christ, which finds expression here and in all of his letters' (148).

In the following posts we turn to Fee's synthesis section.

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At 8/08/2007 11:38 PM, Anonymous ntWrong said...

Since my previous two comments were so cranky, I'll pop in to express a considerable degree of agreement with Fee here. I've always thought the YHWH (LXX) = kurios Jesus (NT) was a particularly striking christological affirmation, coming from a devout Jew.

In my view the NT (not just Paul) moves rather seamlessly from Jesus' resurrection to his exaltation to a place at God's right hand, where he shares in various divine prerogatives. Thus Jesus' lordship (and the appropriation of YHWH references) is a logical inference from the resurrection, insofar as we are moving forward in time with the resurrection as Jesus' installation to a divine office — akin to the enthronement of a king.

Where the argument fails me is in the appropriation of divine attributes for Jesus' backward in time to an epoch before YHWH began to create the cosmos.

I am inclined toward an adoptionist christology (I know, this is brazenly heterodox of me), per the hints which survive in Romans 1 and one or two places in Acts. Thus I am open to Dunn's bracketing of the question of preexistence as a particularly remarkable claim warranting extra scrutiny: not least because there's no hint of it on Jesus' lips, at least in the synoptic Gospels.

If Paul is appropriating Wisdom language in the preexistence texts (per Dunn, pace Fee), how far should we press that language? Does it necessarily imply personal preexistence, or is it akin to saying, "One greater than the Temple is here"? I mean, what Second Temple Judaism affirms about Wisdom, Paul affirms about Jesus — but does such language necessarily imply personal, active deity from a primordial time? That's the issue for me.

I don't think Dunn's argument is watertight, but I think it demands a careful rethink of the preexistence texts in Paul.

btw, I emailed you the other day. Did you receive it?

At 8/09/2007 3:35 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Stephen, thanks for your comment. I did get your mail. I'll e-mail you in a couple of days.
The whole pre-existence issue is, I think, way over pressed by Fee. I see pre-existence as the implication of Paul's divine Christology - and consequently am not too bothered were it not in any passages. Fee makes a good case for pre-existence in Phil 2 and 1 Cor 8 and 10, however, even if he puts too much weight on it. I'll send you my full critique soon. I wanted to send it to you as I would love to hear your feedback, especially as I am convinced that Paul's Christology is a divine Christology.
Anway, thanks for your comments again.

At 8/10/2007 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris and Stephen,

2 Cor 8:9 interests me.

Christ was personally rich, and in his incarnation (especially his death) became personally poor. If he had no meaningful personal pre-existence where he was 'rich' than his 'becoming poor' would seem to be meaningless.

It is no exaggeration to say that this primordial act of personal submission by the 'rich' Son of God provides Paul with the singular foundation for his ethics (Phil 2 and elsewhere where 'submission' comes up).

Since this "becoming poor" is described as being done "for our sakes", it plays a key role in Paul's atonement theology as well. Ignoring this pre-existent movement/deliberation deprives the death of Christ of the merit, or at least drama, which Paul attributes to this act of 'obedience'. It acquires its meaning from a narrative where he was 'sent' (Gal 4) and accepts and obeys (here and Phil 2). Dunn's 'Wisdom language ' solution robs us of the drama integral to Paul's thought.

Importantly 'becoming poor' does not adequately describe any voluntary choice of the historical Jesus nor could such a limited historical act be meaningfully described as done 'for us'. Jesus wasn't thinking of me nor very likely trying to die. To find these purposes you need something entirely more mythical. Paul grasps for this, inferring what was necessary and not much else.

Interestingly he does indicate that the Spirit is also 'sent' just like the Son (Gal 4) and I think all believe the Spirit was pre-existent before indwelling the church.


At 8/10/2007 9:56 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Eric,
Thanks for your helpful comment. One thought:
"Interestingly he does indicate that the Spirit is also 'sent' just like the Son (Gal 4) and I think all believe the Spirit was pre-existent before indwelling the church."
Fee is on stronger grounds for preexistence in 1 Cor and Phil, but I think his case is much weaker in relation to Gal and Romans. The argument you note above, for example, I don't think shows the pre-existence of the Son. Paul could parrallel Adam and Christ, but we do not need to take characteristics from Adam and aplly them to Christ because the yare associated with the same verb, are in parrallelism etc. Don't get me wrong, I don't deny a pre-existent Christology in Paul, but Fee, in my opinion, has overpressed his argument more than once (as I said, esp. in relation to Gal and Rom)

At 8/10/2007 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you dissociate Paul's explicit thinking in Phil 2 with his thought in Gal and Romans? If one does not, then the argument for pre-existence is (admittedly less) clearly being made in those books as well.

For instance in Rom 8 we have a Son who is 'sent' in the 'likeness' of man. It seems Paul is here implying a previous identity, not like humanity's, which the Son had in the place from which he was sent. This identity and time is more clear in Phil 2. Nevertheless Paul is working from the same context here.

I thought the parallelism of the 'sending' of the Son and Spirit in Gal 4 was much more suggestive than just a chance use of the same verb. God sent both implying the prior existence of an agent sent from the divine presence either to a womb of a woman or to our hearts. It seems a stretch to see Paul using 'sent' to describe the Son's human conception which actually comes immediately after this (he was sent AND then 'born of a woman').

It seems to me this 'sending' language suggests more, matching what we see elsewhere. It shouldn't be discounted because it is less explicit.

Cheers (and extra lashes for you),

At 8/12/2007 11:43 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Eric, Great comment.
I would not have a problem with pre-existence in Paul as part of Fee's synthesising programme. However, it is in the exegetical section - without recourse to 1 Cor 8, 10 etc. that he makes these comments about pre-existence. What is more, he says that pre-existence is "explicit" in Gal 4:4-7. I doubt that. Furthermore, he also states in one place that we need to read Gal 4:4-7 in light of 1 Cor 8. Then, when he gets to Gal 4:4-7 he says this makes explicit what was implicit in 1 Cor 8. I ten dto find all of this akward reasoning less than convincing. Again, I don't doubt pre-existence is in Paul, but some of Fee's claims are to my mind going beyond an exegesis of certain texts. For example, when it states that God sends his Son, what is explicit here, contra Fee, is not pre-existence but rather that the Father sends the Son. Nevertheless, this is, according to Fee, an "explicit" pre-existence passage.
Don't get me wrong here - I admire what Fee has done in this work in relation to pre-existence, especially in relation to Phil 2:6-11 and passages in 1 Cor. It is nothing short of brilliant. I'm just not sure his claims in relation to passages in Rom or Gal are supported by those texts.

At 8/15/2007 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"when it states that God sends his Son, what is explicit here, contra Fee, is not pre-existence but rather that the Father sends the Son"

Gee Chris, your comment sheds a great deal of darkness on the subject! Indulge me as I beat a dead horse.

I was just reading Bultmann today where he also thought the text taught pre-existence, so Fee is in good company. Now I'm not sure how pedantically one would need Paul to spell out pre-existence here(it is not his primary focus after all), but it is important to note he uses the verb "send forth" in the text (ex- prefix in greek). The sending occurs "spatially" (forth) from God's vantage point. He thus clearly exists before the birth to the "woman". Now of course he could have been a recent emanation or what have you, but as elsewhere in Paul it is clear he existed before he put on flesh or our likeness (the most narrow definition of pre-existence).

Perhaps there are levels of explicitness and this isn't at the top, but what is there shouldn't be minimized. If you were contending the text was not explicit about the virgin birth I would completely agree, but isn't pre-existence obvious here? Does Dunn even deny it?

It seems to me the passage is also explicitly against any type of adoptionist christology. In Gal 4:4-5 Paul regards Christ as an authentic Son PRIOR to his birth and certainly his resurrection. He is a true Son prior to his mission which made us adopted sons. This should certainly rule out any idea that Paul meant Rom 1:3-4 to imply adoptionist ideas related to the resurrection. The son's independence from the predicament but voluntary involvement is key for Paul. The whole scheme would be wrecked with some mundane Jesus-becomes-the-Son model.

I know you are quite orthodox, don't get me wrong. I just feel the passages (2 Cor 8:9, Gal 4:4, Rom 8:3) are much more informative than your rather flat depiction of them.

I wanted to note also that N.T. Wright shares with Fee that habit of saying "later we will see what this means" only to later say "as we saw" back in chapter such and such. It is annoying writing/editing.

Oh well,

At 8/15/2007 9:05 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Eric,
"It seems to me the passage is also explicitly against any type of adoptionist christology"

I would argue that an adoptionist christology cannot be sustained as a Pauline Christology. I am not sure, however, if Gal 4:4-7 explicitly speaks against it. I don't think the parallel with the Spirit (who is preexistent) establishes what Fee wants it to. I am equally unsure about his language stating Paul is "speaking presuppositionally about Christ’s preexistence" here (215) - wanting to have his cake and eat it! This seems to me to be part of a larger problem with his reasoning relating to pre-existence. Your comments are encouraging me to spend a few posts detailing my problems with it.


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